Madame Bovary's Daughter

Linda Urbach. Bantam, $15 trade paper (482p) ISBN 978-0-385-34387-9
Urbach's third novel, the first under her own name, skillfully continues Flaubert's story with 12-year-old Berthe at her father's funeral. Charles Bovary, destroyed by his wife Emma's death, has left Berthe a penniless orphan. Unlike her narcissistic mother and weak-willed father, Berthe is determined to succeed. Taken in—reluctantly—by her petulant Bovary grandmother, Berthe learns to cook, clean house and tend livestock, hoping for some approval. Instead, her grandmother dies, and Berthe is reduced to working long hours in a textile mill until her beauty catches the eye of Monsieur Rappelais, the mill owner. She refuses the order to join his household staff in Paris, but forced to accept, the position of lady's maid to Madame Rappelais becomes Berthe's salvation. She's praised for her fine needlework and careful attention, and the painful memories of her mother's silliness and destructive affairs keep her focused on her ambitions and her reputation as she rejects her mistress's invitation to sexual games. Flaubert disapproved of the romanticism of the bourgeois; Urbach follows his lead with a moral fable and coming-of-age tale in which hard work and fine workmanship are valued and rewarded. An entertaining romance for readers of historical fiction; if it drives them back to Flaubert, all the better. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 300 pages - 978-0-440-42341-6
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